England sets June 21st target for lifting all Covid restrictions

Boris Johnson outlines plan to reopen shops, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality in mid-April

British prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that the UK government is aiming to "remove all legal limits on social contact" from June 21st as part of a roadmap out of the Covid-19 lockdown in England. Video: Reuters

 

Boris Johnson has outlined a plan to reopen shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality in England in mid-April and to lift all lockdown restrictions by June 21st.

International travel could be allowed from May 17th and the British government will consider introducing “Covid-status verification” using testing and vaccination data to confirm that someone is at lower risk of transmitting the virus.

Introducing the four-stage plan in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said the government would apply four tests before moving from one stage to the next. These are that the vaccine rollout should continue at pace, that evidence shows the vaccines are effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths, that infection rates do not surge, and that new variants do not change the risk assessment.

“The chief medical officer is clear that moving any faster would mean acting before we know the impact of each step, which would increase the risk of us having to reverse course and re-impose restrictions. I won’t take that risk,” he said.

The first changes will come next month with all schools and colleges reopening on March 8th and up to six people allowed to meet from March 29th, when outdoor sport and leisure activities can resume. All shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality can reopen from April 12th and households will be allowed to take domestic, self-catering holidays.

All other accommodation will reopen from May 17th, along with cinemas, theatres and indoor events for up to 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity. Outdoor events for up to 4,000 people or 50 per cent capacity seated outdoor events of up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent capacity will be allowed. International travel could be allowed from this date.

June 21st

All legal limits on social contacts will be lifted from June 21st, when nightclubs can reopen and all limits on attendance at weddings, funerals and other such events will be removed.

“I know there will be many people who will be worried that we are being too ambitious and that it is arrogant to impose any kind of plan upon a virus. And I agree that we must always be humble in the face of nature and we must be cautious but I really also believe that the vaccination programme has dramatically changed the odds in our favour and it is on that basis that we can now proceed,” Mr Johnson said.

New data from Public Health England and Public Health Scotland suggests that within weeks one vaccine dose cuts the risk of being hospitalised for coronavirus by at least three-quarters for those over 80. 17.5 million people in Britain have received one vaccine dose and Mr Johnson said he wants to offer a first dose to every adult in the country by the end of July.

Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed the plan and urged the prime minister to stick to his commitment to put caution before speed in moving through each stage of reopening. But he said the plan should be accompanied by more economic support for businesses, some of which will not be allowed to reopen until mid-June.

“I am not questioning the health basis for that decision, but I am reiterating what we have always said – that health restrictions must be accompanied by proper economic support. So it makes no sense to announce today that businesses will be closed for many more weeks, if not months, without announcing new economic support,” he said.

England’s reopening roadmap: Key dates

March 8th – Schools and colleges reopen. Outdoor recreation or exercise with one other person. March 29th – Two households or up to six people can meet outdoors. Outdoor sport and leisure activities. Outdoor parent and child groups (up to 15 parents). April 12th – Indoor leisure including gyms. All retail and personal care services. Outdoor hospitality. Self-catering holidays for one household. May 17th – Indoor entertainment including cinemas. Up to 30 people can meet outdoors and up to six indoors. Hotels and other accommodation. Indoor events up to 1,000 people. Outdoor events up to 10,000 people. Possibility of international travel. June 21st – No legal limits on social contacts. Nightclubs open. Larger events. No legal limit on weddings, funerals etc.